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02.09.08

Trivial Questions and Trivial Software Patents

Posted in Courtroom, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents, SCO at 11:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The book Patent Failure has just been recommended by Groklaw and its synopsis indicates that it revolves around the issue of property. How does one define it? Can mathematics be a property? An algorithm? Folklore? Can a company sue someone for singing? Over at Glyn Moody’s blog, the following eye-opening bit about imaginary property gets a mention.

If you came across a trash can filled with lawfully made compact discs and DVDs that the copyright owner had authorized to be put in that trash can and then thrown away because it didn’t want to pay the postage to have them returned, do you think you could be criminally prosecuted for selling those copies, and would you think that the copyright owners would be entitled to restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act? If you answered no to these questions, you would be wrong according to the Eighth Circuit.

It is rather sad, but it is true, in accordance with man-made laws. How about this newly-granted Networks In Motion patent?

The patent, titled “Point of Interest Spatial Rating Search Method and System”, basically describes a situation where a user could pull up third-party reviews, low-price ratings or subcategories based on a local store or landmark, such as a shop or restaurant.

How did we end up this way? Here is a good article from the Huffington Post. [via Digital Majority]

The highwater mark was the notorious 1998 State Street decision, which Rich authored and which summarily eliminated the longstanding exclusion of patents for business methods. (1) Suddenly, patents were no longer limited to technology but available for any form of human activity.

By tying the PTO’s budget to the fees it collected, Congress would inspire a new PTO mission, “to help customers get patents.”

If the goal is to encourage and welcome more and more patents, then it is hardly surprising that:

  1. The number of patents stands at many millions, which makes it impossible for an inventor to keep track of them (and thus develop peacefully).
  2. There is too much duplication and extremely generic things get patented under the guise of (artificially-introduced) complexity.
  3. Patents get approved where they should be rejected. We previously pointed out that there are greater financial incentives for a reviewer to approve a patent application.

In today’s news, it is once again indicated that Alcatel-Lucent will continue to suffer and there is a very negative forecast. Last week we explained how struggling companies resort to using their supposedly-defensive patents when they desperately crave some cash. Remember Alcatel-Lucent’s lawsuit against Microsoft, which resulted in a $1.5 billion question.

It is not just struggling companies that attack. Those who struggle can be knocked completely off their feet (or market) when the wrath of patents looms. Case of point from the news:

Patent court affirms Kodak win over Ampex

[...]

Financially struggling Ampex, which replaced its CEO last February, was founded in 1944 and was once considered a Silicon Valley innovator. It is credited with inventing the commercial video recorder in 1956 and first U.S. tape recorder in 1948.

The share price of Ampex took a considerable tumble. Yet another long-time innovator falls victim to aggression.

Why ODF and Why Not OOXML

Posted in Deception, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument at 11:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell seems to have already made up its mind. Since it is financially-dependent on Microsoft and its deal with Microsoft strictly requires it to become a slave of OOXML, Novell is a lost case. Fortunately, there is more to this world than companies that sell out, take a large bag of cash, and betray their suppliers (programmers).

Looking beyond Novell and other similar sellouts, let us consider reasons to shun OOXML. Erwin Tenhumberg wrote about elimination of the ‘software tax’, referring to the business model on which Microsoft Office and its siblings are based.

European governments, in particular, have spent billions of dollars every year in “software taxes” – in the form of licensing fees – all for the right to continue to use proprietary document formats that don’t allow implementation of alternative programs, and ultimately restrict access to government documents by citizens who do not have the licensed software. As a result, governments have been forced to continue using the same program, and in business, we call that a “barrier to exit.”

So, imagine receiving and opening a document, having the ability to read and edit that document, all from a program different from that in which it was created. Now imagine being able to send that document to anyone in the world. That is the goal of the OpenDocument Format (ODF).

Stephane has posted a very comprehensive technical breakdown of OOXML, showing how it breaks down (literally almost, with “self-exploding” spreadsheets).

The Microsoft Office product team rationale for designing such a poorly engineered file format known as OOXML is that, according to public statements they made, they do this not because they want to advance the state of the art in Office document models, but rather because they have to bring the two-decade worth of legacy and bugged if not broken features into the future.

They have a commercial reason to do so. According to their numbers, there is a 400,000,000 user install base. But with the introduction of the new file format OOXML and the accompanying application that they rushed out the door in order to ship in line with Windows Vista, is it true that Office 2007 is Microsoft’s best thing since sliced bread when it comes to compatibility?

Steve Ballmer on ODFEveryone attending the BRM in Geneva, including the many Microsoft employees, clueless proxies and business partners, ought to read this in order to find out what it is that they actually vote on. Clearly, the meeting will be very political, so all these inconvenient technical truths will not bother many of the attendants who are there to slow down the momentum of ODF (that’s just what OOXML is all about).

If case you do not know why the BRM in Geneva is misguided, read our previous posts [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. It’s looking like another sellout, just like in Novell’s case. Here is a portion of a good comment which says why OOXML sets a bad example. This portion refers not to ethics and technical matters, but to seemingly-criminal activities that were (and still are) involved in the process.

If the way Microsoft did business is very good, right, and moral, then why not teach this to our kids in our schools? Lacking in creativity? getting bad grades? Pay off your teacher. Buy your way through school through manipulation, power, and influence. Isn’t that what Microsoft has done in the real world, except they have bought their way through the government enough to dispell public scrutiny? If we let Microsoft do this, are we not doing our kids a disservice because we are not teaching them the way the world is? Maybe the correct way is not democracy, but to make as much money as possible, any way you can, buying your way through life, and forgetting people who have less power than you?

A lot more damning evidence and stories will be posted throughout the week of the BRM.

“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!”

Senior Microsoft Rep about OOXML

Links 09/02/2008: DRM, Clouds, Fedora XO, FOSS at Airbus

Posted in News Roundup at 11:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part III: Novell’s Channel, Legacy and Many Partners

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, IBM, Interview, Mail, Microsoft, Novell, Ron Hovsepian at 9:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Presented below are headings and articles that demonstrate various business relationships Novell has got with other companies. These might prove handy in the future and they may also serve as an example of Novell’s progress in the past week alone.

GWAVA

Ron Hovsepian’s GWAVA talk should be available for download/viewing fairly soon (if it is not somewhere among the links already).

Here is another quick chat with Hovsepian.

GWAVA, a close partner of Novell, also unleashed this press release about Vertigo.

GWAVA, Novell’s largest Collaboration partner for GroupWise and Teaming + Conferencing, announced today the release of Vertigo 1.1, an email management tool that lets GroupWise administrators centrally manage their GroupWise systems.

Gwava’s global partner of the year turns out to be Inetra. Here again is an eerily familiar description of Gwava’s relationship with Novell. You can see quite clearly that they are reusing words, maybe recycling old press releases (compare to the text above).

Gwava, Novell s largest Collaboration partner for GroupWise and Teaming + Conferencing, announced at GwavaCon Americas that German-based Inetra was awarded the 2008 Global Partner of the Year.

Novatium

In India’s press you have an article about the relationship between Novatium and Novell, but it’s more focused on Novatium’s products.

Novatium reviewed several solutions for the central server operating system, user login management and user software packages. The central servers would need to manage thousands of user logins, with tailored user profiles and permissions to use particular services. Unlike most corporate systems, peak workload for Novatium would be concentrated into a few hours between noon and evening time, and the system would need to scale up quickly as more subscribers joined.

Chakrabarti added, “We found that the combination of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and eDirectory were able to provide enterprise-class scalability and integrated user authentication, management and security.” The implementation was done in October 2007. Novatium implemented the solution at its data center and two NOC sites.

Hewlett Packard

SUSE Linux is now at the centre (or the bottom) of a solutions stack involving NDS and H-P.

Following Hewlett Packard’s alliance with NDS Technologies, HP products would now have the option of Novell’s Suse-Linux O/S for their desktops and servers.Sharing his insights on the alliance, NDS Technologies Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pervez Hanif said the NDS Technologies (Private) Limited are the sole distributors of Novell Incorporated USA in Pakistan.

Google/Schmidt

Eric Schmidt’s past experiences with Microsoft (betrayal while serving Sun and Novell) did not escape the attention of the press. With a Yahoo bid (maybe even deal) looming, Schmidt seems concerned on behalf of Google.

The fast, forceful response from Google is a product of Schmidt’s history and personality. Schmidt, 52, had spent much of his career battling Microsoft at Sun Microsystems and Novell, before joining Google in 2001.

Google is meanwhile supporting Novell’s products.

All the latest features are compatible with Microsoft Exchange as well as Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise. Prices will range from $3 per user to $25 per user, depending on how much protection and data retention a customer wants.

Also here.

that they’ve added some new security products to their Google Apps offerings for message filtering, encryption and archiving that will work with any mail system – which they say includes Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and Novell Groupwise.

And here too.

The new service from Google’s Postini subsidiary doesn’t require businesses to use enterprise Gmail as their e-mail client, and includes support for Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and Novell Groupwise.

This makes the big three IBM, Microsoft and… Novell.

Google is selling the features a la carte and they can be used for any email system you use: from Lotus Notes (IBM) to Microsoft Exchange to Novell’s Groupwise.

APTARE

A somewhat obscure company called APTARE was bragging about Novell selecting it. Here is a portion from the press release.

CAMPBELL, CA–(MARKET WIRE)–Feb 4, 2008 — APTARE®, Inc., a provider of Web-based storage reporting and management software, today announced that its APTARE StorageConsole® Backup Management has helped Novell, a leader in enterprise infrastructure software, to manage, protect and recover the high volume of data generated by its Information Services and Technology (IS&T) Operations group. By utilizing APTARE’s solution, the company has been able to better forecast its storage needs and expedite the recovery of data.

MessageSolution

MessageSolution serves to Novell’s GroupWise.

With this entrance into Novell’s server market for live archiving, electronic discovery, and server storage management, MessageSolution will add more revenue streams to its solid market presence in Exchange, Domino, and Unix/Linux-based server environments.

IBM

IBM and Avada do a new deal and Novell gets a quick mention too.

This time the deal is with Avada Software, which will OEM WAS CE Version 2.0 with its messaging management software. It’s no blockbuster deal, but shows that WAS CE still has a heartbeat. Novell did an OEM deal with WAS CE some time ago with its SUSE Linux server.

That’s all for this week.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part II: Mainframes, Identity, Healthcare and ZENworks

Posted in Asia, Identity Management, Marketing, Novell at 9:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s mainframe stories were covered here last week, but there is some further analysis at ITJungle, which is always a week or two behind.

That’s why commercial Linux distributor Novell has teamed up with Sine Nomine Associates to make Linux easier to install on mainframes.

According to Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Linux and open platform solutions at Novell, the company chose to work with SNA for two reasons. First, SNA is a company that has a lot of mainframe expertise as well as experience with open source operating systems and their use on mainframes.

Novell highlights an identity management win in the far east.

Read more about how the National Northern University in China and the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan are using Novell’s identity and security management solutions.

We have about 20 days before the next press release which discusses Novell’s financial performance.

Novell, Inc. will issue a press release providing an overview of financial results for its first fiscal quarter of 2008 on Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 4pm ET.

In India, Novell was reached for a comment relating to GNU/Linux and healthcare.

P K Mishra, consulting architect of Novell India, said open source technology under the Linux platform could provide solutions like imaging, visualisation, signal-processing, bio-surveillance for an integrated health care management.

Novell’s ZENworks received some attention over at NetworkWorld.

Novell’s ZENworks 10 Configuration Management is a solid, mature desktop manager with several useful features, including asset inventory, license tracking, configuration management, application deployment and remote control. However, ZENworks lacked management capabilities for virtual machines and USB ports.

Some further coverage of Novell appears in this blog that we typically have blacklisted.

A couple of notes: First, Novell is developing software like what Hovsepian is describing, so take his prognostication with the appropriate amount of salt. And second, this interview took place in the middle of last week, two days before Microsoft announced its attempt to acquire Yahoo. Tech execs hope that the Yahoo acquisition – if it goes through – would set Microsoft up to start offering hybrid consumer-business software, as well.

This comes from Ben Worthen, a blogger who ‘licks the Microsoft boot’, so to speak, on a very regular basis. He talks about Novell in one particular context. It’s not uncommon for Microsoft-tied publications such as the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times to give Novell, being a Microsoft partner, visibility as a Linux company, often at the expense of others.

An audio recording with some bits from Novell’s Dale Olds is available here.

Dale Olds, the Project Lead on Novell’s Bandit Project: Olds oversees Novell’s Bandit Project, an open standards development group that organizes and standardizes identity-related technologies. The goal is to develop components that provide consistent identity services for Authentication, Authorization, and Auditing. He helped develop and release DigitalMe, an information card selector recently released by the Bandit Project.

Next up: Novell partners.

Do-No-Evil Saturday – Part I: Week of Zonker in OpenSUSE World

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interview, KDE, OpenSUSE at 8:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The big news of the past week can be summarised using one word; Zonker!

Let us look at the past week’s events very quickly, starting with technical progress rather than celebrities and community.

OpenSUSE: Technical

The most recent news is the announcement and availability of alpha 2 of OpenSUSE 11.0. It was announced just yesterday.

Only three weeks after Alpha1, we’re glad to announce the release of openSUSE 11.0 Alpha 2. There are various exciting changes in there that we would like to have feedback on.

When KDE 4.0.1 was released, OpenSUSE was among the first (if not the first) to make it easily available.

Just in time for the KDE 4.0.1 release, the openSUSE KDE team has updated the KDE 4 packages in the Build Service to the KDE 4.0.1 state, featuring several improvements over the plain KDE 4.0.1 release and including further integration fixes.

Zonker Factor

A new community manager (they insist on not calling it “evangelist”) was added to the OpenSUSE team. There were many articles about it and here is a sample.

In ComputerWorld UK they speak about the (increasing) commonality of such a role.

One of the emerging trends in the GNU/Linux distro world is the attempt to build better bridges between the community of users and companies that sponsor development work. Perhaps the best-known example is Canonical’s Ubuntu Community Manager, Jono Bacon, whom Open Enterprise interviewed recently. And now Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier has joined the club as openSUSE Community Manager.

Here is the announcement from the OpenSUSE Web site.

I’d like to give a warm welcome to Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier who joins the openSUSE project as “openSUSE community manager”.

Here is Zonker’s first post. John Dragoon welcomed Zonker as well.

A video interview was published in Linux.com where Roblimo is shown talking to Zonker. They have known each other for quite some time.

Yes, it’s the same Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier who used to be editorial director of Linux.com, and was later editor in chief of Linux Magazine. This week he was named openSUSE community manager, a position analogous to the one held with great distinction by Max Spevack at Fedora until just a few weeks ago.

Direct link to the Ogg file for those who dislike Flash binaries.

Here is ITJungle’s take on this development.

Being the community manager for the openSUSE project is not, strictly speaking, a technical job, although up until now, techies have certainly held such positions at the big open source operating system projects. Max Spevack, the leader of the Fedora Linux development project that was created by Red Hat a few years back as an independent development community for the code that eventually became Red Hat Enterprise Linux, is the obvious parallel to the position that Brockmeier has taken over.

DownloadSquad did an interview with Zonker.

A long time open source advocate, Joe began using Linux in 1996, after purchasing a set of Slackware CDs at a local store. He says, “…I was blown away by the concept of ‘free as in beer’ software. The idea that you could share software, and even modify it and distribute it, was (and is) extremely exciting to me.

CIO.com published yet another interview.

Linux advocate Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier signs on as Novell’s community manager and new voice of openSUSE users and developers. Hear his thoughts on Linux love, the challenges he expects from his new role, and why techies choose one distribution over another.

Brian at LinuxToday had a particularly interesting article about it.

Is this is new position in Novell? If it is, why does a Linux company need an evangelist? Isn’t evangelism implied in the choice of services and product offerings?

Well, it was originally called “Linux evangelist,” but really, that didn’t quite fit the bill, which is why the title was changed to openSUSE community manager, to better reflect what I’ll be doing. Plus, I’m not crazy about the “evangelist” label. Too often, Linux advocates are derisively referred to as “zealots” and called “religious” about their advocacy–so I’d like to avoid a title that lends itself to that sort of thing.

All in all, as you can probably tell, Zonker was the big news to OpenSUSE, at least as far as the press was concerned.

Links 31/01/2008: Ubuntu Chooses KVN, New Kernels Released

Posted in News Roundup at 5:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What Happens When Software Patents Meet GNU/Linux

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, KDE, Microsoft, OIN at 12:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patently discriminatory

Apple is not truly an opposer of software patents if the company’s deeds are anything to go by. We previously showed how this company's software patents caused features in GNU/Linux to be castrated. Out comes KDE’s Aaron Seigo’s with further new complaints about this issue.

Many of Apple’s concepts such as icons stacks, parabolic zooming in panels and (most recently) widgets on media centers that they seem to feel are patentable are either unoriginal or just plain trivial.

[...]

Future society will look back upon us and cluck their tongue at how stupid we were for having let the patent system encroach upon things such as software on the one hand and become so baroque a system as to be generally lacking usefulness on the other.

Meanwhile, the OpenMoko team, which makes open Linux-based phones, expresses similar regrets as it finds itself in need for something like OIN.

We need to file patents for our hardware as well as software designs.
While my personal views on software patents are inline with people like
Eben Moglen, as a company, we are forced to play by the rules of the game.

What I want is for a our company’s patents to be freely available, for
anyone, but for defensive purposes only.

Are there any existing options available to us now? Does anyone know of
existing companies or organizations with a similar strategy that we can
seek guidance or partnership.

Groklaw has already advised him to look into OIN, which will stubbornly defend its members, shall it be necessary. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft refused to join OIN because it wishes to use software patents as a weapon. Amid problems perhaps, this would be the company’s last resort.

Other Software Patent News

Digital Majority cited some good articles that are worth mentioning. Among them:

Electronic Data Systems of Plano claims it holds the rights to U.S. Patent Nos. 7,156,300 and 7,255,268 which generally relate to a system and method for electronic purchase of prepaid telephone services. The plaintiff’s original complaint describes the inventions whereby a customer can purchase a specified amount of telephone service through a personal computer or an ATM machine.

The first patent was provisionally filed in 2000 and has been “in process” for the last 8 years. Yes, I said 8 years. Many think that Software Patents are stupid. I conceptually agree with this statement. Having spent what seems like millions of hours constructing these, baby sitting them, defending them; it is really all wasted time and effort, at least in a conceptual sense. There is no way for a software engineer or system architect to have any idea what exists out there to either copy or avoid (whatever the motivation).

…the Honourable Mr Justice Lewison in the Patents Court has dismissed Autonomy’s appeal against a refusal of their patent application relating to automated computer searching.

As Linus Torvalds recently indicated, software patents should be treated as an obstance. It is not a technical obstance, but a legal one. It’s a case of politics (and law) turned against competition.

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